In Macbeth, in what situations besides the murder of Duncan does Macbeth show lust for power?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth shows his lust for power first by instantly clinging to the witches’ prophecy that he will be promoted to Thane of Cawdor and king. 

The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step(55)

On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap,

For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;

Let not light see my black and deep desires: (1:5)

Yet this is not the only time in which his heart has “black and deep desires” during the play.  Macbeth is not content to just murder Duncan.  He also frames Malcolm and Donalbain, so they flee and are not a threat to him.  He murders Banquo and Fleance to ensure that his own sons will be kings.

They hail'd him father to a line of kings:

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown(65)

And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,

Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,

No son of mine succeeding. (3:1)

Thus, Macbeth is content to murder whoever he wants in order to maintain his power now that he has it.  He also has spies throughout his kingdom and is quite suspicious and even paranoid. 

The worst example of Macbeth’s lust for power is his murder of Macduff’s family.  He cannot reach Macduff, because he is in hiding with Malcolm, so he kills his wife, son, and entire household.  This is a terrible surge of pointless violence that reinforces to the viewer that he really has lost his mind and has no redeeming qualities.

In addition, this murder spurs Macduff on to be extra vigilant in wanting to kill Macbeth in revenge.  Indeed, Malcolm counsels him to turn his grief into rage.

Be this the whetstone of your sword. Let grief(265)

Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it. (4:3)

In the end, this act of senseless violence may have been Macbeth’s undoing, as it leads directly to his assassination.

lianne | Student

Apart from his own ambition and desire to become King, Macbeth is greatly influenced by Lady Macbeth. He is proud of his physical courage, and is therefore more vulnerable, for instance, to her suggestion in Act 1, sc 7, that he is not a real man if he does not act decisively in relation to Duncan.

  ...Art thou afear'd

To be the same in thine own act and valour

As thou art in desire? " 

She asks whether  he would rather give up his hopes of becoming king 

"And live a coward in thine own esteem...."

Macbeth replies to her critisim with the strong retort "I dare do all that may become a man" but is still influenced by her comeback "When you durst do it, then you were a man". In this scene, the audience sees Macbeth's resolve developing. At the start of the scene he is still unconvinced, and wrestles with the immorality of killing the king. By the end of the scene, however, his wife has convinced him. 

"I am settled, and bend up

Each corporal agent to this terrible feat".

Later in the play, Macbeth's lust for power has grown to such an extent that he cannot even bear to think of Macduff having snubbed him by refusing to attend the banquet. He sees this as a threat to his complete power and control over the thanes, and that is one of the reasons that he visits the witches a second time.

Finally, Macbeth craves the power of self determination. When he knows that he is beaten, he makes a conscious decision to fight to the death , rather than  be taken alive, where he might have to "kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet" ( Act 5, sc 8).